Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

005: The Secret Trick to Facing Fear [Podcast]

Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”
—Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Most people think that in order to start something, you’ve got to be brave. You have to overcome fear. But that’s not true at all.

No fear

Photo Credit: krissen via Compfight cc

If I know anything about making difference, about stepping up and taking risks, it’s this: you’ve got to learn to do it afraid.

In this episode of the podcast, we tackle some more questions from readers and listeners (submitted through my Facebook page).

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To listen to the show, click the player below (if viewing this in email click here).


You can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

The fear that holds us back

A reader named Gregory submitted this question:

How do you get started?

What a great question.

How do you start something, anything, that you’re putting off? How do you not stall and do work that matters? Our struggle comes down to fear.

We are all familiar with the hold that fear has on our lives. We know the power we sometimes give to the things that scare us. But we forget there are actually two fears that should concern us:

  1. There’s the fear of doing something and failing. Maybe you’ll get rejected, maybe people will make fun of you. Maybe you’ll die.
  2. There’s the fear of not trying, which is really about regret.

So the question is this: Are you more afraid to fail… or not try?

The first girl I ever asked out

The first girl I ever asked out was a cheerleader named Katie — and I almost didn’t do it.

Why? Because I was afraid.

In fact, the day I decided to do it, I had already given up. Fear had gotten the best of me, and I was on my way out the door.

And as I was getting ready to leave the school, get in my car, and drive away, something stopped me. I realized that I would regret not doing this more than any embarrassment it might cost me. I had to try.

So what did I do? I turned around.

And over the course of about 30 seconds, I marched across the gym, walked up to Katie, and blurted something to her that I still can’t remember to this day.

After a prolonged silence, she said yes and then walked away. Taking a few steps, she then turned around to say three words I’ll never forget:

It’s about time.

The art of getting brave

The way we build courage is by taking action, by staring something in the face that could fail — and doing it, anyway.

So how does this work? How do you face fear and start something, even when you’re afraid? It’s a three-step process:

  1. Decide to decide. Commit to following through, before you begin.
  2. Decide how to decide. Set the parameters. How long will you wait, how much information will you collect, when will you do it? Knowing this will help you not stall.
  3. Do it. This is the hardest and most important part — you must follow through and accept the consequences.

It’s not the result of the choice that makes us brave. That’s not up to us. It’s the choice to do something we’re afraid of — that’s what makes us win, regardless of the outcome.

So what’re you waiting for? It’s time to get started.

Note: In this episode of the Portfolio Life, we also covered how to launch an eBook, what I’m currently working on, and more! Make sure you listen to the whole episode to get the goods.

How we apply this lesson to our lives

As silly as it sounds, I just started something I was afraid to ship: this podcast. And I’d love for you to leave an honest review.

You can also copy and paste this URL into the podcast player of your choice: https://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePortfolioLifeJeffGoins.

Also, if you have any questions for future episodes like this one, let me know (just shoot an email to jeff at goinswriter dot com).

Lastly, I want to hear something you’re trying to start. Leave a comment below. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please tweet about it or share it with your friends on Facebook.


Here are some resources and links mentioned in the podcast:

What’s something you’re wanting to start, but fear has been holding you back? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • ‘It’s about time.’
    The girl said it all, didn’t she …

  • Pamela Black

    Jeff! I laughed so hard imagining you and your utterly forgettable line to Katie that I have tears! What a great story! And what a great point. The world is waiting for our honestly, our courage.

    It’s about time.

    WOW. Way to deliver. As usual. Thanks, again.

  • Pamela Black

    I just saw the question about my own project. I’m trying to figure out how to help an orphanage in Kenya. The main problem is communication, time zones, email, language barriers. I have other people waiting to help me even, yet it’s going sloooowww. I want to do something to make a big impact, and more importantly, a lasting impact. But sometimes, I think I just think too small.

    And then there’s fear. Even though I know I’m not alone in this, a lot rides on what I personally decide to do. Literally. It’s a lot of pressure. If I do nothing, maybe nothing gets done. You know we sometimes get in this mindset that someone else will fix the problems of the world. But I really believe if we are the one moved by the problem, then we are ones who should fix it. I should fix it. The pressure is insane. Yet, I know deep down, if I do nothing the regret would be even worse.

    I think if I could just commit, and have everything lined out, all of it in order, then I wouldn’t be so terrified. It would take the focus off, knowing the unknown. But the truth is, there is always an unknown variable. And you keep saying we have to ship, we have to ship. So, I’m trying.

    Your suggestion above about having a times frame, and deciding HOW you will decide, are really helpful. Got anything else on those lines???

  • Jeff, I really enjoyed this. Thanks so much for entertaining and inspiring me.

  • Loved the podcast and the points you made. Something I’ve been wanting to start but keep delaying launching is my blog https://KingdomInfluence.com

    I have the big picture and am pretty clear on the journey it will take to achieve it. But I find myself endlessly tweaking the site (hence the broken footer), adding content that is 95% done and adding more 95%-done work before finishing the 95% that just needs 10 mins of focus to be presentable .

    But today, I’m going to launch anyhow. Thanks for the nudge. Time to jump off the cliff and fly or die trying instead of endless gazing at the edge.

  • Arushi Jain

    The podcast related to: ‘The secret trick to facing fear’ was a useful one. Frankly. I have tried this way million times. I do it everyday. The reason I found it useful lies in the three lines written below the suggestions, that went like: ‘It’s not the result of the choice that makes us brave. That’s not up to us. It’s the choice to do something we’re afraid of — that’s what makes us win, regardless of the outcome.’
    I felt my decisions were good regardless of the positiveness of the results. If nothing else, at least I learnt which decisions I will be able to follow.
    My current decisions are related to my book. I want to write a novel, a fictional one. Although I am a bit scared. Writing it daily after a day of school and homework is sometimes tough. You need inspiration. However, I want to write it on a regular basis just to have a consistent project.

    • I think you’re on the right track, Arushi. Keep moving!

  • Christine

    Thank you so much, Jeff for your podcast! I started responding to my very first story callout in January of this year. When I gave it to my daughter (who attends college) for editing, I felt intimidated by the amount of work that had to be done to it (At least her comments and corrections weren’t in red!). However, I was appreciative and finally started working on it. Then I let it set because I thought maybe it wasn’t good enough.

    While I was listening to your podcast, you encouraged me with your honest examples to pull out the story and work on it again. I am choosing to face the fear of inadequacy and rejection and step out in faith.

    I am currently in a Bible study on Esther and you are probably familiar with the infamous lines from Esther 4:14:

    “14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (NKJV)”

    Esther faced her fear of approaching King Xerxes knowing that she could be killed yet if she didn’t take that step, she and all of the Jewish race could have been annihilated.

    Now, I certainly can not compare my decision to write with the repercussions of what Esther had to face but the similarity that relates to me is in the calling. The line that speaks the most to me is “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” What if this first step in writing is for such a time as this?
    When you posted Katie’s response “It’s about time” and how that impacted you, those words also resonated in my heart. Thank you for your impact on me.
    I want to encourage you to keep writing and doing these podcasts because you are making a positive difference!
    Blessings, Christine

    • I love that story, Christine. Thanks for sharing.

  • I’m glad that you started this new podcast. You made several good points about fear stopping us. For the first twenty or so years, I let it stop me. For the last twenty years, I just do it. I have a beautiful wife, who is too good for me, three wonderful kids and published six books because I quit letting fear of rejection or looking foolish stop me. Good stuff, Jeff.

    • Thanks for listening, Ken. I love your story!

  • Ashley Nance

    This sounds just like a post I wrote in January about my Resolution to let go of fear in 2014. It’s on my blog at http://www.ashesandtomatoes.com/blog. The irony is that it got so many hits, the responsibility of having a real live tribe scared me away from writing more! I’m through that now, and doing something really cool. One of the ways I got through my fear is to pay for a booth at a trade show and invite people to visit my blog for free. Then I got to meet my tribe face to face – and watch everyone who wasn’t in my tribe physically walk past me. It was thrilling to say the least!

  • The only way I have been able to really overcome what scares me the most is by actually doing it more! It actually works.

  • Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for the reminder of the importance of moving forward in spite of nagging fears and doubts. Something that I have been holding off on starting is the publication of my first book. I am happy to say I launched an Indiegogo campaign last week and am now beginning the process https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/717620/emal/6732060. Overcoming the fear of getting started was a challenge, but I’m glad I did. This past week I’ve been having a blast reconnecting with old friends and making new ones along the way. Thank you for your book So You Want To Be A Writer! The coaching, encouragement and support was a huge influence in building up the courage to take the steps needed to move forward!

    • That’s great to hear, Jed. Just keep moving forward!

  • Great episode Jeff, really enjoying your podcast!

    • Thanks, Kimanzi. It’s been fun. 🙂

  • Ivy Shelden

    Jeff, great podcast. I thought I’d conquered my fears by starting my blog http://thewideopenmind.com/ and getting my writing out there…only to find out that fear never really goes away. I think fear is a monster that we writers are constantly beating back, and because of that it can’t be addressed enough in these encouraging posts!

  • I’m attempting to start a workshop series called Creatively Authentic that focuses on using art as an avenue for finding your authentic self. I feel like Im doing it all wrong but atleast I’m doing something!

    • I love that idea!

      • THANKS! I’m having a hard time getting people interested, but I hope over time it will catch on! Thanks for keeping me inspired!

  • Pablo Ellsworth

    Jeff, your podcast has been awesome! Keep up the great work. It is really helpful!

  • Enjoyed this Jeff. Your story of the girl reminded me of the all we need is 20 seconds of insane courage quote. I can relate to having that feeling about starting to write and starting to lead small groups and starting to go on mission trips. Lately I feel like I’m not sure what I’m supposed to start next when it involves the things I’m passionate about. It really is a life long journey of figuring out and acting on the next thing and next door you should walk through in order to grow.

    • Totally. I’m glad that movie came out AFTER I did this, so I can take credit for it. You’re absolutely right, Eileen: it is a journey.

  • Just went past my fear. Telling my fear “N0” doesn’t work for me because he gets louder as I’m inactive. Just doing it is what I have to do. Doing it afraid. Thinking I’ll just wait till my fear subsides is playing right into fears ugly hands. Fear just wants us frozen.

    I just announced my launch date. Having received the final proof yesterday I labored for a while yesterday. I decided today and the fears started dwindling. They never disappear, you just ignore them and keep going.

    Good podcast, Jeff.

    I just want to say if you wait a long time between decisions the muscle becomes atrophied again and it will seem like the first time.

    • Love that analogy of muscle atrophy, Anne. I agree. The longer wait, the easier it is.

  • Lancia Smith

    This has been such a gift! Thank you for doing this and for sharing such rich clarity. You are a blessing to me and I love the podcast!

  • CZ Wright

    “Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”
    – Neil Gaiman, Coraline
    This was news to me when I first read it; it makes so much sense now that I’ve digested the idea. Thanks so much for this great show! “It’s about time” – that brought a tear to my eye. 🙂

    • Oh, that’s an awesome quote, CZ! Thanks for sharing it. (I’m adding it to the beginning of this blog post.)

      • CZ Wright

        Great! It really hit home when I read it (though most of his writing does that for me). It’s how we’ve explained bravery to my kids – my daughter now actually corrects us if we call anyone brave, if, as she says, they were never scared, too.

  • Gerard Swales

    Hi Jeff
    Nice podcast, basically ‘do it anyway’!
    I also have a question. I listened to the really good webinar you did with Tim Grahl. I get it! But the only thing he didn’t say that I waited all the way though to hear was what can a fiction author can offer to list subscribers to persuade them to subscribe? No matter where I look, all the advisors seem to dodge this question. It’s easy if you’re selling non-fiction to offer tips on the hobby or the problem etc, but non-fiction? My mind goes blank, because my customers are readers, and the only thing they want is my fiction, not workshop slides or tips.
    Do you have any advice?


    • Yup. Do it, anyway.

      Gerard, that’s a great question. You’re right, it can be a challenge for fiction authors. You have a few options:

      1. Build a platform on what it’s like to be a writer (best-selling sci-fi fiction author Hugh Howey does this: https://www.hughhowey.com).

      2. Build a platform on your work and use your blog to share snippets of your work and behind-the-scenes stuff (JK Rowling and Ted Dekker kind of do this: https://teddekker.com).

      3. Build non-fiction platform based on the principles in your fiction work (Andy Andrews does this: https://www.andyandrews.com). For example, he tells stories that teach leadership and life management principles, so he tends to blog and speak on those topics.

      So yeah, it’s a little more complicated for fiction authors, but still very much possible.

      Good luck!

  • Victor Macias

    I like it most, It’s really good think.

  • Jeff, thanks for this one! I just discovered your podcast a few days ago. Love them! Great start.
    This one specifically challenged me to *finally* write my first blog post.

  • Thanks, Jeff! Right on!
    One thing that could be added to the subject about how to start would be to write it down. (Write down what you’re going to do, when you’ve decided to do it, etc.) Doesn’t have to be a huge production, even just a simple event in your calendar, or line item on a to-do list. I really believe in the power of writing something down that leads to actually accomplishing it.
    I experienced this afresh this morning: I’d been telling myself for months that I would get up earlier in the mornings to work on formatting my new eBook, but finally realized I needed to “decide to decide”, so I wrote it on my planner for last night. It was as simple as, “write early tomorrow am”
    It gave me the kick I needed to actually get out of bed—and I got a lot done! Going to do it again tomorrow! 🙂

  • chrissie21

    Thanks Jeff. Inspiring and encouraging. “Failure is a means to success’. I love that notion.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Hey Jeff

    I wasn’t planning on listening to this podcast today, but I guess fate drew me to you. I needed to hear your wise words. #HUGS

    Because I am on the verge of making two very important decisions:

    a. Get into freelance writing: I have NEVER sent query letters and don’t know how to pitch. Worse, I am extremely sensitive to rejection, and hence keep stalling. But the fire in my heart refuses to get quenched, so it’s time to grow up and honor my desire. 😛

    b. Launch my website: Urrgh…I had a not-so-pleasant experience trying to setup a website using GoDaddy. Being a non-coder – with absolutely NO technical acumen – I need something very simple. My friends tell me Bluehost is designed for WordPress users and hence I am going to buy my domain this week (even as I am writing this, I am procrastinating. I was going to say, “TODAY”, but, hey, today is already here – so maybe it can wait a couple more days? :P) Let’s scratch that and say: today 😀

    So, yes, it’s time I befriended fear, eh?! I have dreamt enough. It is time to do.

    Thank you so much, Jeff <3